Fit For A Princess

2 new tiaras have made their way into my house …
One for each daughter to wear to the upcoming Daddy/Daughter Dance.

I am pretty sure these tiaras mean more to me than they do to Marco or either girl. They represent something I never truly had; an involved father.

Tiaras with copyright

I love my dad more than anything. I know he tried. I know he did the best he knew how, especially with his very weird work schedule (he rotated days and nights so we rarely saw him).
My desire, even as a 40 year old married woman with 5 kids, is to please him and make him proud of me. I still feel like a little kid around him; I want him to notice me. Everything single thing I do, I do for his approval.

Despite always asking, he never did anything like this (a daddy/daughter dance) with me. He danced with me once at my wedding.

He never went to my concerts, plays, games, … I’m not saying he didn’t give me extravagant gifts or life changing opportunities. He did. I appreciate each one more than you can ever know. Sometimes, however, it is little things that make the bigger impact on a person’s soul.

I love my dad and I logically know he simply struggles with showing his love for me (and everyone else). He thinks gifts are the best way to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or whatever emotion he can’t vocalize. What I always wanted and needed was for him to dance with me, come to my concerts, cheer me on at my games …
I still desperately want him to be proud and approve, but I fall short every time.

My dad and I have a story and it is ours. Most of it is messy, but there are some really nice parts too; like the one time he acted silly and he piggy-backed my down the aisle at my rehearsal dinner. It was completely out of character for him and it is one of my favorite memories of him. I accept our story, but it doesn’t mean I want the same story for my daughters and Marco is well aware of that fact. This is why this dance is ridiculously important to me. It is the girls’ first dance ever and they get to go with the best man in the world.

I always wanted my husband to be the dad who did things with his daughters, like dress up in ties and tiaras (which happens to be the dance theme) and dance the night away. I wanted them to have the dad who went to their concerts and plays and what-not.

They have all of that and more. They get nightly piggy-back rides to bed, special songs sung to them, random dancing in the living room, and so much more. The girls love their daddy and he is amazing at making time for each child (not an easy feat with 5 kids). They want to go to the dance and so he is bringing them. I confess I get jealous at times. Not bitter. I just wish I had what they have with their daddy.

This dance is the closest I will ever get to a daddy/daughter dance, so I although neither girl expected or asked for a tiara, I bought them each one. I will dress them up and put make-up on them and do their hair fancy and make them feel like royalty. I will love and cherish each second of getting them ready. I get to live my dream out through them. I hope one day they look back and see how very lucky they are to have Marco as their daddy.

Now excuse me while I go put one of their tiaras on while I do housework.

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

*written 3/28/18*

UPDATE:

Mark and girls with copy right

The girls and their daddy. Be still my heart.

The 11 year old doesn’t like dresses so we shopped for a beautiful pants outfit. The top is so feminine and perfect on her!
They had an amazing time. The girls got to dance with their daddy.
The 8 year old was a social butterfly, flitting around and dancing with her friends. The 11 year old had a blast with her friends. They all did the Chicken Dance.

Me and Mark with copyright

It might not have been my dance, but I love a man in a suit and had to get a picture before the moment disappeared.

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Pain Tolerance

As a parent I am guilty of blaming myself for every bad decision my children make and every negative emotion they feel. I carry the weight on my shoulders and in my heart. I think most of us are guilty of this.
I just want my kids to be happy, well liked, have good manners, be successful …

One of my kids went through something very traumatizing last summer. The trauma impacted all of us deeply and I blame myself. What could I have done to prevent this from happening? What did I do or fail to do that created this reality? The questions are constant and run through my mind on auto-play 24/7.

The event was a big enough deal I asked Marco how he felt about counseling. I wanted someone who could help us handle our emotions properly, help me develop enough peace so I could sleep at night again, and guide us on new parenting strategies since my old ones obviously weren’t good enough.

When you are dealing with the aftermath of a crisis forgiving yourself, moving forward, realizing there was nothing you could do to change what happened, accepting the choice was someone else’s and you do not control their choices, or whatever else is holding you back is a long process. There is no quick fix. There will be good days and bad days. It is hard work.

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There are sessions I felt were pointless because of my own mental blocks. And then it happened; a break through. In session I was able to realize pain tolerance goes beyond physical pain. It was all part of a longer conversation, and it was a light-bulb moment for me that helped at least a little. Everyone has an emotional pain tolerance and how they deal with it is based on how they are wired.

We do not think someone is less capable when they need pain medication for something we personally do not need medicine for. We realize not everyone can handle the same amount of pain. We accept that. So why is it hard to accept people also have different pain thresholds for their emotions?

We need to realize and accept not everyone can handle the same amount of emotional pain. Maybe you think their story is “nothing compared to…” but everyone’s story matters. We can’t know their pain tolerance so comparing it to anyone else’s is most unhelpful to them and you.

Why do I keep blaming myself for my child’s crisis? Each of my children were born wired to handle a certain amount of pain (physical, mental, and emotional). My one child hit a limit. There is nothing I can do about that now.  Now that know the limit I can try to teach them better ways to prevent hitting that limit and ways to handle it when they do.

Now to work on that forgiving myself thing ….

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

*originally written 1-10-18*

My Top 10 Best Ideas

OK, so I really feel like even after 15 years of parenting, I totally stink at this gig. However, there are moments where I feel I out-shine my biggest expectations. Please note these are the best ideas for MY family! I am absolutely not telling you this is the best way because I am not stupid. I realize every family has to find there own groove. These are my hacks that have made life in the Gardner Household far easier.

Here are my favorite (in no particular order):

10. Teaching my kids to cook at an early age. Now that they are older they can cook dinner without supervision! Can I just tell you how awesome it is to not have to worry about making dinner every night.

9. Split the house into zones. I give them a number and they scurry off and clean that area. When they cooperate the house gets fully clean in under 30 minutes.

8. Use Perfectly Posh Gender Bender to remove stains … including nail polish! Posh makes no claims that the soap is anything more than a nourishing, tallow-free, moisturizing soap, but it worked wonders when a certain daughter spilled nail polish all over my carpet and hid it from me instead of telling. I found it 2 days later but Gender Bender and a little elbow grease got the polish completely out of our carpet!

7. Letting the kids pick their own extracurricular activities instead of imposing my own desires on them. If I had my way they would all be little theater buffs. To date, none of them are in theater. However, when they love what they are doing, they tend to try their best.

6. When shopping with little kids always bring a sharpie marker. Why? Because they can be used on mirrors in fitting room and wipe off easily with a baby wipe.
Why are you in a fitting room with all the kids?
*Baby wanted to breastfeed and you need quiet or they rip your nipple off while looking around and nursing at the same time because stores are exciting for them. So you pop over to the fitting rooms and settle with the baby and let the toddler create art on the mirror. Now if only they would deliver a coffee to the fitting rooms ….
*You have 3 little ones 5 and under and you need to hide while you cry because what the he** were you thinking when you thought that you could take 3 little kids to Target??
*You actually need to try on clothes and you really don’t want your toddler climbing under all the dressing room doors and scaring the sh** out of all the other women also trying on clothes.
*Because it is a great idea.

5. Push Ups. Forget time out. Time out does nothing if you aren’t going to teach your child how to cam themselves by taking slow deep breathes etc. Time outs make them mad at you because it is soooooooo unfair so they retaliate and draw on the walls when you turn your back. How do you punish that? They did it while in punishment! Instead make them do push-ups! Sure they grumble and complain, but they learn how to do proper push ups before the rest of their peers and, I kid you not, it becomes a bragging right. They get stronger and learn that positive physical activity can help them. When they are done we talk about what they did wrong and what they can do different next time. The push ups help them get into a clearer mind faster so the conversation actually sinks into their brains!

4. The girls are terrible at cleaning their room. They can literally take a full day to do a 5 minute job. Ground them, take away dessert, etc and nothing changes. Heck, I have even thrown away their toys! Yes, in the trash, not into a bucket to earn back. Doesn’t matter. They could care less. Do you realize how annoying this is?? I want their rooms clean. It is a safety issue and, to be honest, I hate messes. It overwhelms me and makes me irrational. So how did I finally get them to clean and in a timely manner? I bet them they couldn’t clean their room in the time it took the Mission Impossible theme song to play. I blasted the song and stood at their door and watched (because I didn’t want stuff shoved under beds etc). I have never seen them move so fast. The song is 3 minutes and 28 seconds long. I think this is a new cleaning record. I don’t mind losing this bet.

3. No screen time during the week. Period. I have a basket and phones and tablet go in there unless I give the say so. Bored? Go play a game or ride your bike. Read, write, or be bored. Just stay off electronics. I am watching a terrible trend of disconnect. Humans are losing empathy and I really think it is lack of real human interaction that is the cause. Maybe I am wrong, but I know this isn’t hurting them and may benefit them. If this doesn’t work for you, I totally get it. I promise we do not judge. To each their own, but I promise you this has made our lives more pleasant and far more simple.

2. I took Facebook off my phone. It is still on my tablet and that goes with me everywhere also, but I am more likely to not check it 500 times a day. I also took Snapchat, Twitter Tumblr, etc off my phone … the only thing I kept was Instagram because I do like to post pictures easily. All of these are on my tablet, so I am still connected via social media, but I am on it far less and much happier for it. Bonus, my kids have also noticed I am not on it as much and they are also happier.

1. Everyday I tell myself “You are doing the best you can in the moment. Give yourself a break.” OK, so sometimes I then call myself a liar and tell myself I am terrible at this parenting thing and I may even cry ugly tears, but if I keep telling myself I am doing my best then maybe I will one day believe it and maybe my kids will see I tried and refused to give up on myself. Maybe it will help them to learn to never give up on themselves. If that is the one thing I succeed at, then I did well.

~Andrea

Dinner Time Antics

*I have been going through my drafts. I found this little gem. I assume I never posted because I didn’t have a picture. I happened to remember the picture below is on my computer still. Zen isn’t 1 in the picture, like he is in my  post, but he is still crazy and the picture is fitting. 

When you give a one year old his dinner he is going to want what everyone else is having instead. When you give him what everyone else is having he is going to want his very own bowl and spoon, just like everyone else.

Once you give him his spoon and bowl with “big person” food you are going to have to let him feed himself or he will scream.

When you let a one year old feed himself with his very own bowl and his very own spoon you are most assuredly,at some point, going to catch that spoon as it zooms through the air.

When you give a one year old his very own bowl full of food that bowl will end up upside down on the floor and food will splatter everywhere.

When you give a one year old dinner in his very own bowl with his very own spoon and the spoon flies through the air and the bowl lands spectacularly on the floor upside down you will have a guffawing group of children who all yell “We told you it was a bad idea Mom!!!!

Needless to  say, when you give a one year old dinner there is never a dull moment.

~Andrea

zen

Crossroads

This year has been emotionally hard on me. One really big reason why is I have had more days than not when I feel like homeschooling 4 kids and caring for a toddler is just not for me. The only person I have mentioned this to is Mark so this is probably going to surprise those who know me best.

I struggle nearly everyday. I am worn from it. I really feel like the 2 girls would benefit from at least a year in a formal school setting. They are so much fun to be with, but I think they both need to find some independence away from their big brothers. I would like to see them blossom into their own beings. Their brothers, bless them, hold them back a little. I know they do not realize it. They are just protective.

My oldest is also going to “officially” be in high school this next year. I would like to focus more energy on getting him situated so he can achieve his very lofty life goals. My sweet 12 year old son would stay home with me also. He struggles and over the years we have discovered the best ways to help him learn and retain information. They are very nontraditional methods so a traditional school setting really wouldn’t be in his best interest.

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Elf is turning into a bookworm. She loves books as much as her eldest brother!

What do I do? I really do not want to send the girls to public school. I am not criticizing public school at all. My oldest went to public school for 2 years and Elf went for half a year until we changed school districts. My objection is personal to our family dynamics, beliefs, and goals. These are things that each family must personally decide on. For me, public school isn’t really an option at this time. I say “at this time” because I am not so bold as to say I am 100% against it. I am open for a change of mind and heart so long as it is the right choice for US.

That leaves private school. Who has money for that though? I have searched local schools and scholarship options. I actually have one place bookmarked that we may be able to make a reality. I have yet to get in touch with the school, but I plan to. There is also online school. That would keep the girls home without having to worry about planning their school days. That doesn’t help with my wanting them to develop themselves away from their brothers though.

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Princess making a cake while Zen watches. 

I really have no idea what I am going to do. Although Mark and I are a team, this is ultimately my decision since I am the one who is home all day with the kids. I know I have my husband’s support and that does make it easier. I know that when I make a decision he will back me up. That is a good feeling. Right now though, I am torn. I am not 100% convinced either way. I am no closer to an answer than I was in October. Time is not on my side. I need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Why am I bothering telling you all of this if I am at a loss for what I am going to do? Well, writing it all out makes it more real. I need to see how I will react once I start getting feedback, because I know there will be feedback. Also, I feel like I can’t be the only parent struggling with the decision on what type of schooling is best for their child(ren). I want others to know they aren’t alone. The struggle is real. We are all just trying to do what is best and it is OK to doubt through the process.
~Andrea

“Houston, We Have a Toddler”

We realized that on a daily basis we are saying some pretty funny things. Zen is definitely an active toddler. He is full of joy and life and loves to be chased. One day, after a very funny “He’s a rainbow again!” My kids and I sat down and wrote out everything said in a day’s time. That’s right, this is all just one day. This is not a complaint at all. We love our toddler and his antics, even when Momma gets frustrated and tired. This is a small season and this post will be a treasured memory for us. I hope you enjoy it.

Off the table, Buddy!

Who left the markers out where the baby could get them! He looks like a rainbow!

Stop eating playdoh!

Don’t pull the dog’s tail!

Can someone help me pick up all this Kleenex. The baby tore the box apart.

Why are there stickers all over the baby’s face?

Off the table you go!

What on earth is in your mouth now?

Where did you get that stamp? Guys, we can’t have stamps out when the baby is awake!

Who forgot to put the baby lock back on the cabinet in the kitchen?

Why is there a pan randomly in the middle of the stairs?

Seriously! Get off the table!

Oh no! He got into my desk and has all the Post-its!

Quick! Close your bedroom door before the baby gets your legos!

Sigh. The baby got to your legos.

The toilet plunger is NOT a toy.

Why are you on the table again?

Please take a nap. Please take a nap. PLEASE, just take a nap!

I’m gonna get you! (squeals of laughter)

Time to change you diaper. No, wait! Get back here!

Stop eating our Gingerbread Train!

What do y’all not understand about keeping markers away from the baby!

Stop giving your food to the dog!

He’s on the table again.

Why on earth are you carrying the trash can around?

Toilet water is not for playing in.

How did you get that orange? Let me peel it for you. Ew! Come on! Please let me peel it.

Don’t pull on the Christmas tree!

I found another ornament in some random place.

Why are you pushing the chair around?

Naked baby on the loose!

Leave Daddy’s glasses alone.

Table. Off.

Don’t put that in your ear.

Get off the dog.

Mommy’s phone is not a toy.

How did you manage to unbuckle the stroller belt?

We don’t throw our food on the floor.

Mom! He’s on the table!

Well, get him off the table then!

But he’s screaming.

Fine. I give up. Stay on the table, just don’t fall.

Um....not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Um….not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Parent-Child Dates

It is very easy for a child to get “lost” in the chaos of 4 siblings to “compete” with. We try very hard to have alone time with each child. This isn’t always easy. We participate in their activities, I teach each one (well, except Zen) to cook a new dish at least once a week, we play games (C-Dog loves playing RISK with Daddy), and we take them on “dates.”
Sometimes all it takes is a trip to the store to pick up something for dinner or a walk around the block and the child feels special. Other times the child needs a bit more.
This is when we bring them to the playground, movie, zoo, etc. Today it is Elf’s turn. She was needing a bit of “Daddy time” so they put on their raincoats and headed into the city! They are enjoying the zoo today.

If you have children in your life what do you do to help them feel like an individual and special? Please share with me!
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How cute is she??? Ah! I really love this picture ❤